In honor of the 30th anniversary Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, the PMC blog will take you on a ride through history. Today we continue 30 years in 30 weeks with a look back at the PMC in 1989. We’ll coast through the event’s history, featuring a new year each week, as we lead up to the 30th annual ride on Aug. 1 and 2.
Check out past 30 Years in 30 weeks posts here.
Send your PMC story to Stephanie@teakmedia.com
30 years in 30 weeks
1989 was the 10th year of the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge. There were a record number of riders, volunteers and Heavy Hitters. The PMC exceeded $1 million in fundraising for the first time.
But all everyone remembers from that year is the rain.
It poured. The yearbook describes it a “monsoon rains.”
Today, 20 years later, riders still vividly remember the 1989 rains.
“Man, that was a miserable one,” remembers Rick Luppy.
At first, the goal was to stay dry. Riders used garbage bags as ponchos and put duct tape over the holes in their helmets to keep the rain off their heads.
Here’s more from Luppy:
“We just kept slogging up and down the hills, slowly moving along, hoping that the rain would stop, or at least let up a bit. And then around the lunch stop in Easton, it all got better. Not because of the weather, because it actually started raining even harder.
But at the lunch stop, everyone began to realize that they were all completely drenched, right to the bone. There was no longer any energy being spent on trying to stay dry. We were all soaked, and we started to take comfort in the fact that no one had any clothing at all that was even the least bit dry. It was liberating for us to stop fighting against the rain. We all started to relax and “let it go.”
We actually began to rejoice in the soaking weather. We started laughing and joking. It could not get any worse, so we all began enjoying each other’s misery and the laughable situation that we all shared. If it’s true that “misery loves company,” then there sure was a lot of love on that ride in ’89.”
The rain, and even some thunder and lightening, pelted riders all day on that Saturday ride. But the 943 riders continued onward.
“Alls well that ends well,” remembers rider Charlie Larsen. “Because the conditions were so bad, we were much more careful and the pace was much slower, and I don’t believe there were any significant injuries. I don’t think it was still raining when we limped into the Mass Maritime Academy.”
The ride kicked off with pasta dinner at Sturbridge on Friday night. Twenty-four hours later, they soothed their drenched bodies with massages, live music, food, and beer at the Saturday party at Mass Maritime Academy.
Months before the soggy 1989 ride took off, Billy Starr had a plan to hire his first full time staff member. Starr and Chris McKeown were on a biking trip up north. “As we were eating sandwiches on the grass, Billy asked me to be the first full time employee of the PMC.”
McKeown said it was an “easy decision” to quit a consulting firm job and join the PMC as its first paid staff member.
Starr was running the PMC out of his father’s house. On his first day, McKeown set up an old computer at his home.
McKeown looked at the screen. “Now what?” he thought.
“We were a small company and the job description was not well defined,” he said. “My first job was to develop the Sturbridge registration and the kick-off event.”
McKeown got to work planning the first pre-party of the PMC – turning the Sturbridge registration into an opening ceremony, expo and dinner event. There about 40 booths in the first expo in 1989.
McKeown also created the “Day Tripper” event – the first one-day ride. Day trippers started in Sturbridge and ended in Middleboro at the fourth water stop – about 84 miles. It was a great start to expanding the PMC’s reach to what it is today – with seven different bike routes form 47 miles to 190 miles.
The PMC retrospective says this about McKeown:
“Known as the ‘can do’ man, McKeown can count on his seven siblings and parents for support. In 1989, all of them either rode or worked on the PMC. Some of Chris’ plans for the Day Trippers’ finish line were rained out this year, but he and his family have more planned for next year.”
McKeown has fond memories of his work at the PMC – he met his wife thanks to the PMC.
In 1989, Meredith Beaton Starr showed Chris some photos of her friends she worked with who were also involved with the PMC. One woman struck his eye and Meredith introduced Chris to her friend, Lisa. Chris and Lisa were married five years later and now have two children. They continue to ride and volunteer for the PMC, along with many members of the McKeown family.
“I take great pride and pleasure seeing the success of the PMC today, knowing that I had a role in that development when I was working fulltime for the PMC,” Chris McKeown says.
The Provincetown coordinator position was also added in 1989. Husband and wife team Steven Kravit and Greta Armstrong stepped up to the challenge of running all activities at the Provincetown Inn. That included coordinating lunch, luggage sorting, setting up outdoor showers and crowd control.
Here’s Billy’s take on the first 10 years of the PMC in a letter sent to cyclists in November 1989:
PMC 1989 facts
Event date: Aug 12 and 13
$750 fundraising minimum for two day rider
188 total miles
Start: Sturbridge Plaza
Finish: Provincetown Inn